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Industrial Technology and Traditional Knowledge




  The following is an interview transcription from the 1998 Smithsonian Folklife Festival with participant Rita Morales, a labor union leader and worker in a maquiladora (maquiladoras are production plants found mainly on the U.S./Mexico border and are generally owned by U.S. companies).Translation and interview by Enrique Lamadrid, presenter and interpreter at the Festival.*
Science, Technology & Invention in The Rio Grande:
Industrial Technology in Borderland Factories
EL: My name is Enrique LaMadrid and Rita Morales and I are having a conversation about the work that she’s involved in on the Mexican side of the border and the really giant maquiladora [factory] industry. The topic at hand is Hispanic contributions to science and technology in the United States. Rita is a really interesting person to talk to in terms of this because of the tremendous size of the industry along the border. So much of the electrical and component parts that the United States’s whole scientific and technological enterprise depend on are assembled by people just like her.

Rita, Cuánto entiende del inglés?

RM: Muy poquito.

EL: Lo haremos así traduciendo. Pues digales un poco de donde es Ud. Y de como se involucró en, como primero se enteró de las maquilas? Cual fue la primera en que trabajó?

RM: Yo soy del estado de Veracruz, a los veintenueve años me vine para Matamoros en el ‘83 y primero trabejé como mesera y luego despues de tres anos, la primera fábrica que conocí fue la de Fisher Price, adonde hacen puros monitos, corrales para ninos. Es una maquiladora de puro jugete para ninos.

EL: She says she’s originally from Veracruz, in Central Mexico on the Gulf Coast, of course. She left there at the age of twenty nine and came up to Brownsville in 1983 and started working as a waitress but then began working for Fisher Price, in a maquila putting together all of different kinds of toys that they make, putting together playpens....

RM: Trabajé seis anos ahí.

EL: She says she worked six years at Fisher Price.

RM: Se fue la maquilador de Matamoros. Y tuve que conseguir trabajos en Cambridge. Cambridge se inició en ‘93.

EL: And she says in ‘93 the next one she worked with is called Cambridge.

RM: Bueno ahí primero era una fábrica que se hacian bandas pero de plásticos. Y segun se fue haciendo cada año, cada año a llegamos a hacer ahora fabricando bandas metálicas. De acero a carbon, de acero inoxidable. O sea, ahorita en la que yo trabajo en orden de linea trabajo la una banda que es hecha en assembly manual.

EL: She says that the Cambridge outfit specializes in component parts, different kinds of belts: everything from conveyor belts to little plastic belts, and little components in mechanical electronic devices of all kinds. They now include high carbon steel conveyor belts.

RM: Sí. Todavia trabajo con ellos. [I still work for them.]

* transcription edited for clarity

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